DUBAI: BBC journalist Edward Lawrence was “beaten and kicked by police” prior to being arrested while covering the protests over COVID-19 measures in China.
Lawrence, a journalist and cameraman of the China bureau, was attacked on Sunday in Shanghai, confirmed a broadcaster.
Footage posted on social media showed him being dragged to the ground in handcuffs. In another clip, he is seen saying “Call the consulate now.”
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist, Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai.”
The spokesperson confirmed Lawrence was held for several hours before being released and was beaten by the police. “This happened while he was working as an accredited journalist. It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way whilst carrying out his duties.”
The BBC said it received no official explanation or apology from Chinese authorities, who instead justified the arrest as a move for Lawrence’s “own good” to not catch COVID-19 from the crowd.
The BBC said it does not consider this a “credible explanation.”
The Chinese foreign ministry contested the news corporation’s statement, claiming Lawrence did not identify himself as a journalist.
Zhao Lijian, the ministry’s spokesperson, said the BBC’s account does not reflect what happened.
Lawrence addressed his arrest in a tweet: “I understand at least one local national was arrested after trying to stop the police from beating me. Thanks very much for the kind words and messages of concern.”
British Secretary of State for Business Grant Shapps said on Monday that the incident was of “considerable concern,” telling Sky News: “There can be absolutely no excuse whatsoever for journalists who are simply covering the process going on, for being beaten by the police.”
Shapps added that it was unacceptable for journalists to be “caught up and involved and indeed arrested” when they should be “fully entitled to cover things freely.”
According to a story by RTS, Switzerland’s national broadcasting channel, Swiss journalist Michael Peuker was briefly detained on Sunday evening after a live broadcast from the scene of a protest. Peuker and his cameraman were surrounded by the police while on air but were able to go free after explaining they were journalists. Their equipment was seized but returned in full.
Peuker tweeted that what happened is “revealing of the treatment of foreign journalists in China. Hindrances, intimidation, harassment on the ground have become commonplace.”
China has been witnessing a wave of protests across the country over what citizens deem draconian measures on COVID-19 containment.